I put the lids on the donabe and turned on the gas.
Long and slow, the clay pot took longer time to heat up over gentle heat to bring water to boil – slightly above medium heat would be good. I turned around and cleaned up the countertop. The used bowls and plates into the sink, the small brown parchment paper bag that wrapped the matsutake into the recycle bin, knife washed and dry thoroughly before going into the knife rack.
Should be ready now. I turned around. Hearing the bubbling, a symphony of the water, rice grains with the clay pot, I saw the steam curling up in the air. I turned down the heat, minimal heat, leaving the dashi in a state between boiling and not boiling. Listen, it quieted down inside the pot. The rice and ingredients were being cooked slowly, gently.
I like how it sounded when turning on the gas – it’s light but deep, like a quiet and humble person looking after the stove for you, cooking comfortably with clean execution. The bubbling in donabe is a pleasure to listen too; it’s a note of softness. And your voice is music to my ears, especially when you are calling my name.
“What’s that?” You hugged me from behind.
“It’s not ready yet, hun.”
“It’s you. Smell so good.”
You buried your face in the back of my neck, greedily sniffing.
When we watched TV on the sofa, I liked snuggling on your laps, and you would run your fingers through my black hair. I looked back at your face, and you, in a smile, said I’m like a kitty; when being petted comfortably, I would give you that oh-so-nice face as reward. Leaning forward, you then buried your face into my hair, inhaling deeply like sniffing a cat. Sometimes when we were out on the street, you would pretend unwitting and moved
closer. If I found out you sneaking, you denied like a kid and said “What now? Can’t I breathe?” Only you told me later on, that when you smell my scent you feel safe and it sets your mind at peace. It is said that people search for his or her other missing half by scent, isn’t it?
It all quieted down inside the pot. Having my hand rested on the donabe over a kitchen mitten, I felt the tender vibration from the steam inside. Off the heat, left the lids on, allowing the steam and pressure to stay in the pot. A little wait would make the rice taste better.
10 minutes later, the table was set, and it was time to unveil. We tried to stick our noses closer.
“It’s the smell of autumn.” We uttered at the same time.
The aroma of matsutake and rice brushed our face, and the broth made with kombu and soy sauce gave the rice an earthy note. Gingko, in warm golden colour, reminded us of the park pavement blanketed with yellow gingko leaves at a park amidst sunset beams.
Closing our eyes, it brought us to Japan – we were having a stroll in a forest in Kyoto, a forest full of gingko trees, and we looked up seeing a beautiful golden shade.
Let our table landscape stay in the golden autumn, so I wished.
Matsutake and Gingko Rice
Water 5 cups
Rice 2 cups
Dried kombu Size of a palm
Fresh matsutake 2 pieces
Japanese gingko 20 pieces
Soy sauce 1 tablespoon
Sake 1 tablespoon
Mirin 1 tablespoon
- Soak the kombu in water for 3 hours. Remove the kombu and keep the broth.
- Add the soy sauce, sake and mirin into a measuring cup, and add kombu broth till you get 2 cups of the broth. Mix well.
- Wash and strain the rice.
- Wash and dry the gingko. Cut it into half to remove the bitter stem, and then quarter it.
- Handle the matsutake just before you cook; it will lose it aroma if being cleaned and cut ahead. Use a dry cloth to clean the soil on the mushroom, and then a wet cloth. Note that there is soil hidden under the umbrella folds.
- Lightly peel the hard stem of the matsutake with a knife. Cut the mushroom into thick slices.
- Pour the rice and broth into a Japanese clay pot*, even out the rice. Lay the gingko and mushroom onto the rice. Do not stir the ingredients.
- Heat up over medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes after it is brought to boil. Turn off the heat, leave the lids on for 10 minutes. Mix well and ready to serve.
*Can be replaced by a rice cooker. Ingredients and steps unchanged.
It’s raining outside, crisp and bleak. Three chubby sparrows took shelter on my balcony and I gave them the baguette bits left on my breakfast plate but they flew away. I stayed in, played Damien Rice on vinyl and made apple crumble. Repeat.